On Wednesday, August 30, Ubai Aboudi, Director of the Palestinian civil society organization Bisan Center for Research and Development, was stopped by Israeli authorities from leaving the occupied West Bank to Jordan for work-related meetings. He has faced unjust restrictions on his freedom of movement since 2022.
Israeli authorities have denied him the right to travel without cause or due process and disregarded repeated requests to clarify whether a travel ban was issued against him. These actions not only violate his basic civil and human rights but also hinder his vital work in defending Palestinian human rights, promoting civil society, and advocating for justice.
On Tuesday, September 5, Ubai appeared at the Shabak (Israeli General Security Services) base near Ramallah as demanded by the authorities. He was subjected to degrading treatment and ultimately told to leave without being questioned. The entire process was meant to harass and intimidate the human rights defender and to send a wider message to Palestinian civil society.
On Thursday, September 7, DAWN sent this letter to members of Congress and officials in the Biden Administration outlining the Israeli government's abuse of this U.S. citizen and Palestinian human rights defender.
September 6, 2023
Dear Member of Congress,
We are contacting your office about American citizen and human rights defender Ubai Al-Aboudi, Executive Director of the Bisan Center for Research and Development. Israeli security agencies have persecuted Mr. Al-Aboudi for his work for several years now, including denying him the right to leave the West Bank in the occupied Palestinian territory and arbitrarily imprisoning him without charge or trial.
Mr. Al-Aboudi, born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, is a Palestinian-American resident of the West Bank and a civil society leader who has worked to document human rights abuses by both Israeli and Palestinian governments and their security forces. In the latest incident of intimidation, harassment and abuse, Israeli authorities prevented Mr. Al-Aboudi from leaving the West Bank to attend a conference in Jordan and summoned him to an Israeli General Security Service (Shabak) base in the occupied West Bank, where they subjected him to inhumane and degrading treatment. Israeli authorities released him without conducting any questioning, taking any investigative steps, or informing him of any other reason for his summons. We urge you to contact the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. to inquire about Mr. Al-Aboudi's case and why this American citizen is unable to travel freely, particularly at this time when the U.S. is in the final stages of reviewing Israel's admittance to the Visa Waiver Program.
Mr. Al-Aboudi is globally recognized for his human rights work. It is for those efforts, particularly advocating for Palestinian rights while demanding accountability for Israeli perpetrators, that the Israeli government and its security agencies have repeatedly targeted him. The Bisan Center, established in 1989, is one of seven Palestinian civil society organizations that Israel falsely declared to be "terrorist" organizations despite the lack of any credible evidence. The U.S. and European governments have asked the Israeli government for additional evidence to support those claims, only for the European countries to reach the conclusion that no such evidence had been presented and reject the "terrorist" label, while the CIA reportedly "was unable to find any evidence to support Israel's decision to label six prominent Palestinian NGOs as "terrorist organizations."" And despite the designation, Bisan and the other organizations continue to operate openly, including holding meetings with diplomats, Israeli organizations and visiting delegations of parliamentarians.
Mr. Al-Aboudi was also targeted by Israeli spyware, most likely by an Israeli state actor, as reported in a Front Line Defenders forensic investigation in 2021 and verified by technical investigators at Citizen Lab and Amnesty International. The investigators found Pegasus, spyware produced and distributed by NSO Group, a company that was placed on the U.S. Department of Commerce Entity List, on Mr. Al-Aboudi's phone as well as on the phones of other individuals associated with the targeted Palestinian organizations. In November 2019, Israeli authorities put Mr. Al-Aboudi in administrative detention, a practice that Israel uses to indefinitely imprison Palestinians without charge or trial. The United Nations Secretary-General later determined that Mr. Al-Aboudi's imprisonment was a case of arbitrary detention.
The Israeli military authorities governing the occupied West Bank have refused to answer Mr. Al-Aboudi's questions as to whether there is a travel ban against him or for how long it may last. Under the rules of Israel's occupation, all Palestinians need permission from the Israeli military to leave the territory and the decision to deny an individual an exit is completely opaque to Palestinians with few if any channels for appeal. Israeli forces have prevented Mr. Aboudi from leaving the occupied West Bank for several years now, most recently when he attempted to travel to Jordan on Wednesday, August 30, 2023. The Israeli military also banned him from traveling to Jordan in June 2022, where he was to provide testimony to a United Nations human rights body.
Mr. Al-Aboudi is available to provide additional information or answer any questions about his case.
DAWN has invited Mr. Al-Aboudi to Washington, DC for meetings on Capitol Hill in October 2023, and we are concerned that Israel's arbitrary measures against him will impede his ability to brief members of Congress and other policymakers.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or to connect with Mr. Al-Aboudi.
Director of Advocacy, Israel/Palestine